I say ... stretching each syllable as much as possible, in order to
avoid tripping over my own tongue.
says the young doctor. "I'm impressed." He snaps a fresh pair of
plastic gloves from the dispenser and pulls them on, squirting them
with something that looks like Dippity-Do. "Of course," he adds -- with
a little just-between-you-and-me-and-the-lamp post chuckle -- "I
couldn't tell you what it MEANS or what it DOES."
And with that, he slides one slick, gloved hand deep into my vagina.
don't know what a sphygmomanometer is, either. I only know how to spell
it, and (now) how to pronounce it ... which apparently puts me one up
on the doctor. I've been laying here on this examining table for so
long, I've had to resort to reading medical equipment for
*entertainment.* ("Sphygmomanometer" backwards, by the way, is
about this appointment has taken longer than planned. Waiting
for the cab to come pick me up this morning took longer than planned.
Filling out the medical history form took longer than planned. (Twinkly
Front Desk Person: "Did I forget to tell you? We need this
filled out in BLACK ink.") Sitting in
the waiting room took longer than planned. Waiting in the sitting room
took longer than planned. Laying here on this fudking examining table,
on the hottest day of the year, has taken MUCH longer than planned: my
flimsy paper gown is sticking to me like wet Charmin.
then again, simply getting to this examination table in the first
place has taken about five years longer than planned.
did you say you had your last pap smear?" the doctor asks, groping
around my cervical area like a piñata inspector checking for
holes in the papier-mâché.
I've answered this
question four times already this morning: once to the Twinkly Front
Desk Person, once on the medical history form, once to the stern and
unsympathetic Nurse Practitioner, and once to the doctor himself,
when he asked me the same damn question five minutes ago. I'm tempted
to unload both barrels at him -- My last pap smear? That
would be Thursday, March 13th, 1997 at 6:55 p.m. EST ... and a pelvic
exam wasn't the only thing we did on that examining
table -- but in the interest of maintaining cordial
doctor/patient relations, I stick with the abbreviated answer.
years," I tell him.
gives me that look -- that look that says Lady, how could
you be so stoopid about something so important? It's the
same look the stern and unsympathetic Nurse Practitioner gave me, not
forty minutes ago.
the same look I've given myself, more times than I
know I've gone too long between exams," I reply, fighting to keep
all trace of defensiveness out of my voice. "I've been down a pretty
bumpy road since that last pap smear." And as he probes my interior
with one hand, kneading my abdomen from the outside with the other
hand, I give him the Reader's Digest Condensed Version of the past five
years: how I'm a recovering alcoholic with almost four years of
sobriety under my belt: managing my health wasn't exactly a priority
during The Wine Box Days ... how I finally got sober, with the help of
the man who would eventually become my second husband ... how I've
managed to turn my life around in recent years, working hard to get
healthy and live right and set an example for my children.
late than never, right?
need you to unbutton your blouse and unhook your bra," he says,
removing the plastic gloves and dropping them into the trash. As he
pokes and prods my sweaty breasts, I tell him about the Seventy-Two
Hours From Hell -- how my life becomes utterly
unmanageable for those two or three days, every month -- and how I'm
thinking that it all might be connected to perimenopause. I've been
doing a lot of research on the subject, I tell him. I'm forty-four. I'm
just about the right age, right?
he think it might be perimenopause?
is no immediate response from the doctor. I sneak a peek at him,
through the space between my splayed-and-stirrupped knees. He has
finished the exam, from the looks of it, and now he is gazing
thoughtfully into space. It's clear that my story of recovery and
redemption has touched him deeply.
know," he says finally, with a dreamy expression on his young face.
"That would probably be a killer Scrabble word."
he points at the sphygmomanometer, hanging on the
wall above me.
minutes later I am dried off, dressed and leaving the doctor's office
with a prescription for low dose birth control pills in my hand and
a follow-up appointment on my calendar. I'm not angry. I'm not even all
that upset: I knew what to expect when I made a Kaiser
appointment. Besides: I got the prescription. That was actually my
main objective, this time
around. Still, I think that when I come back for my mammogram next
month, I'll probably request a different physician: one who doesn't
look young enough to be my son, one who doesn't tell me that I'm
probably being "premature" with my talk of perimenopause ...
and one who isn't daydreaming about board games
while he's holding my ovaries in his rubber gloves.
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